ON the back of an imported pest scare in 2014, the Australian ginger industry has signed on to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD).

The Australian Ginger Industry Association (AGIA) became a signatory to the EPPRD at a Plant Health Australia (PHA) meeting in Canberra late last year.

PHA is the custodian of the agreement, which sets out how plant pest incursions are dealt with and how the cost of an eradication response is cost shared.

With AGIA joining the EPPRD, there are now 40 parties to the agreement, including PHA, all Australian governments and 30 plant industries.

In September last year, live nematodes (roundworms) were found in a carton of Fijian ginger imported into Sydney, sparking industry outcry and calls for a cessation of all ginger imports.

In November, the Federal Department of Agriculture announced it would begin a review of import conditions for fresh Fijian ginger.

Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said the review was recommended in the Final Import Risk Analysis Report for fresh ginger from Fiji, published in January 2013, and had originally been scheduled to take place 12 months after the commencement of trade.

“The detection of live Root Knot nematode in ginger from Fiji has revived concerns about the potential prevalence of the Burrowing nematode, or Radopholus similis and any chance it may have survived the extensive import conditions applied to fresh ginger from Fiji,” Minister Joyce said.

“It is important that industry and the community have confidence in the import protocols imposed by the Department of Agriculture to mitigate risk.

“I am pleased therefore that the Director of Quarantine has brought forward the review in order to clarify the science around Radopholus similis.

“While tests performed by the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on a consignment of imported ginger did find live nematodes—root knot nematodes—these are already found in Australia and their presence was not a surprise, nor a quarantine concern.

“The review will re-examine the previous work and literature, as well as any new science regarding the quarantine status of the burrowing nematode and the efficacy of the measures applied to manage the identified biosecurity risks.”

Stakeholders had until December 19, 2014 to make technical submissions relevant to the terms of reference for the review.

A draft report is planned for released in April for a 30 day consultation period which is open for stakeholders submissions.

A final report is planned for release in June 2015, at least one month prior to the expected commencement of trade for the 2015 season.

Queensland agriculture minister John McVeigh welcomed the review.

“We must protect our local industry from pests and diseases found overseas,” he said.

“This review is an opportunity to particularly address the risk of burrowing nematode, which is known to occur in Fijian ginger.

“The review will enable industry to extend discussions they had during the Senate inquiry on Fijian ginger imports, and put forward further technical information on risks.”

AGIA president Anthony Rehbein said he was pleased the industry had taken the step of becoming a signatory to the EPPRD in the light of recent biosecurity concerns.

“The EPPRD is very valuable to the ginger industry,” Mr Rehbein said.

“We know from the pest threat analysis that PHA did last year that there are exotic pests out there that we really don’t want in Australia.

“Signing up to the EPPRD gives us the knowledge that should an emergency plant pest make it onto farms, Australian ginger will have a seat at the table with government, deciding on the appropriate course of action.

“It also means that the costs of the response will be shared between the industry and government and, importantly for growers, those adversely affected by any eradication response may be eligible for reimbursement.”

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